Matthew 26:58 - And Peter was following Him [Jesus] at a distance, as far as the courtyard of the high priest, and going inside he sat with the guards to see the end.
The Gospel writers tell it like it was for Peter the night Jesus was betrayed and handed over to the chief priest for questioning. They tell us that Peter was following Jesus—but at a distance.
That had to be one of the most difficult nights in Peter's life. He was on a roll—and not a good one. At the Last Supper, Jesus tells Peter and the other disciples they would all "fall away" from Him (Matthew 26:31b). Later, Peter's poor showing at staying awake while Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane (see Matthew 26:36-46; Mark 14:32-42; Luke 22:39-46) was topped off by Peter's impulsive swipe with a sword, lopping off the right ear of one of the high priest's servants. (See John 18:10-11.)
Clearly, things were not going well at that point. And it's little wonder Peter wasn't eager to go rushing in to help Jesus. So, Peter's strategy—if we can call it that—was to lay low, stay within earshot of what's going on but still far enough back to make a quick exit if necessary. We've all been there, probably, right?—hanging back when getting too close could cost us, and may cost us dearly.
Because following at a distance is easy, isn't it?
But, my friends, Jesus does not want you and me to follow Him at a distance. He wants us near Him, so He can guide us. As much as we are able, we must follow Christ closely. He is inviting us to do just that. "My sheep hear My voice," Jesus says, "and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they shall never perish; and no one shall snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand" (John 10:27-29).
It may seem like lagging behind in our faith-walk with Jesus is the way to go, but we must learn to lean forward into Him, trusting that He is there for us every step of the way. My hope is that we let the love of Christ draw us to Himself, as we follow Him closely, diving into His Word, embracing His mercy and forgiveness as shown to each of through His life, death, and resurrection.
Then we can say with the hymn-writer, "Jesus! And shall it ever be, a mortal man ashamed of Thee? Ashamed of Thee, whom angels praise, whose glories shine through endless days? Ashamed of Jesus? Yes, I may, when I've no guilt to wash away, no tear to wipe, no good to crave, no fear to quell, no soul to save. Till then—nor is my boasting vain—till then I boast a Savior slain; and oh, may this my glory be, that Christ is not ashamed of me!"
WE PRAY: Heavenly Father, grant unto all who hear Your Word today the courage to follow You more closely. In Jesus' Name we pray. Amen.
From "Following Jesus at a Distance," a sermon excerpt from Rev. Dr. Wallace Schulz, former Speaker of The Lutheran Hour
1. Showing loyalty can be hard. What might keep us following Jesus at a distance sometimes?
2. What do you think was going through Peter's mind as he watched things unfold from the shadows?
3. How can we learn to lean into Jesus when things are difficult?
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